Theme: A Call for Justice
In this week’s lessons we are reminded that in his time the Lord will both punish the wicked and vindicate the righteous.
Scripture: Psalm 94:1-23
“There are times when the wicked seem to have things all their own way,” says Charles Haddon Spurgeon in a sermon on Psalm 94.1 That is never entirely the case, of course. The wicked have their troubles too, not the least of which are problems dealing with one another. But they do seem to prosper, and they certainly oppress those who are weaker than they are and take advantage of them. The earth is not a place for perfect justice.
So what should we think? In the first place, believers should not be shocked by the situation.
The righteous need not wonder that they suffer now, for that has been the lot of God’s people all along, and there have been certain times in human history when God has seemed to be altogether deaf to the cries of his suffering people. Remember the martyr-age, and the days of the Covenanters, who were hunted upon the mountains like the partridge. You must not wonder if the easy places of the earth are not yours, and if the sentinel’s stern duties should fall to your lot. It is so, and it must be, for God has so ordained it.2
True. But neither should we be indifferent to the evil. We should ask God to punish sin and avenge the righteous, which is what Psalm 94 does at length and in memorable language.
Psalm 94 is thought to be an interruption in the block of eight psalms dealing with Jehovah as king, but this is probably not right. Although the psalm does not call God king specifically, it does deal with one aspect of a king’s work, which is to render righteous judgment. In the ancient world the offices of king and judge were frequently one. Recognizing this as true, Marvin E. Tate includes Psalm 94 in this block along with Psalm 92, saying, “Both psalms seems to deal with a current situation among the people which is keeping them from recognizing the kingship of Yahweh, set forth in Psalms 93, 95-99.”3
The outline is exceptionally easy, and the New International Version has it right except for the possible reassignment of verse 3 to the second rather than the first stanza. There are six stanzas in all.
The first stanza is a call for God to arise in judgment against the “proud” who crush or oppress God’s people (vv. 1, 2). If verse 3 belongs with this stanza (probably even if it does not), the complaint is not that God is unjust or uncaring but only that he is apparently slow to act. As Derek Kidner puts it, “There is no room for the crippling suspicion that God, perhaps, is blind (7) or has done a deal with darkness (20). Nothing has changed the Sun or corrupted the Judge: it is simply that the night is long (1b, 2a).”4 In other words, it is the problem with which we began: in this world, for now, there often seems to be very little justice.
1Charles Haddon Spurgeon, C. H. Spurgeon’s Sermons on the Psalms, ed. Chas. T. Cook (London: Marshall, Morgan & Scott, 1960), p. 164.
3Marvin E. Tate, Word Biblical Commentary, vol. 20, Psalms 51-100 (Dallas: Word, 1990), p. 488.
4Derek Kidner, Psalms 73-150: A Commentary on Books III-V of the Psalms (Leicester, England, and Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity, 1975), p. 340.
What does the psalmist ask God to do?
With what aspect of the king’s work does this psalm deal? What language does it use?
What is the complaint of verse 3?
Reflection: In what ways do the wicked seem to prosper?
Application: Knowing that God is the judge of all, and who will do what is right, in what ways can you stand up for righteousness and show daily that you are not indifferent to evil?
For Further Study: Throughout the Psalms we see many examples of trouble and hardship that afflict God’s people. And from them we are encouraged to praise the Lord in the midst of them and to trust him to work for our good. If you or someone you know is going through such a time, consider picking up James Boice’s published sermon series on this treasured portion of God’s Word. The Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals is offering it for 25% off its regular price.